All-Time Team – Chicago Cubs
Best Team: 1906
Although they failed to win the World Series, the 1906 Chicago Cubs are generally considered to be among the greatest teams of all-time. The first of three consecutive pennant-winning clubs, the 1906 squad posted a National League record 116 victories in only 154 games. The team scored 705 runs, while surrendering only 381 to the opposition.
This was a close call between Cap Anson and Ernie Banks. I could just as easily have gone with Anson, who gained general recognition as one of the 19th century’s greatest players. However, I elected to go with Banks instead since he faced a superior level of competition during the 1950s and 1960s. Banks also had a more positive influence on the game. Keep in mind that Anson’s refusal to take the field against black players during the 1880s set a precedent that caused a “gentleman’s agreement” to subsequently go into effect excluding blacks from participating in the national pastime at the major league level.
Ferguson Jenkins also received a great deal of consideration, but the final decision was to go with Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown, who posted a career ERA of 1.80 for the Cubs. Brown also compiled a record of 188-86 in his 10 years with the team, en route to winning a total of 239 games over the course of his career. The Cubs were the National League’s dominant team from 1906 to 1910, and Brown was at the core of their success, compiling an overall record of 127-44, while never posting an ERA any higher than 1.86. Brown’s career mark of 2.06 is among the best ever, and his 1906 figure of 1.04 still stands as the “modern” record for a starting pitcher.
First Base – Cap Anson
Despite his lack of racial tolerance, Anson was a truly great player who still holds the Cubs team records for highest career batting average (.331), most hits (3,012), most runs batted in (1,880), and most runs scored (1,722). While with the Cubs, Anson led the league in batting average twice, on-base percentage three times, and runs batted in eight times.
Second Base – Ryne Sandberg
Johnny Evers and Billy Herman are both in the Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, Ryne Sandberg was clearly the greatest second baseman in team history. An excellent offensive player, he hit 282 home runs, drove in 1,061 runs, scored 1,316 others, and collected 2,385 hits – all records for Cubs’ second basemen. Perhaps even better defensively, Sandberg collected nine Gold Gloves in his 15 years with the team.
Third Base – Ron Santo
One of the very best players yet to be enshrined in Cooperstown, Santo was the National League’s premier third baseman for much of the 1960s. He hit 337 home runs while playing for the Cubs, drove in 1,290 runs, scored 1,109 others, and collected 2,171 hits. Santo appeared in nine All-Star Games and won five Gold Gloves. Stan Hack deserves an honorable mention.
Shortstop – Ernie Banks
<9>Mr. Cub ranks second in team history with 512 home runs, 1,636 RBIs and 2,583 hits. Banks captured back-to-back N.L. MVP Awards in 1958 and 1959, when he combined to hit 92 home runs and knock in 272 runs.
Left Field – Billy Williams
Billy Williams and his sweet swing called Wrigley Field home for 16 years. During that time, Williams hit 392 home runs, knocked in 1,353 runs, scored 1,306 others, and accumulated 2,510 hits. Williams won a batting title, finished second in the N.L. MVP voting twice, and appeared in six All-Star games.
Center Field – Hack Wilson
Wilson spent only six years in Chicago, but he posted some prolific offensive numbers during his relatively brief time in the Windy City. The Hall of Famer led the National League in home runs four times, while also topping the senior circuit in RBIs on two separate occasions. He had his greatest season in 1930, when he batted .356, scored 146 runs, hit 56 home runs, and knocked in an all-time record 191 runs.
Right Field – Sammy Sosa
Although Sosa unquestionably received the help of PEDs during his time in Chicago, it would be difficult to find any other Cubs right fielder whose numbers even approached those compiled by him in his 13 years with the club. Sosa’s totals of 545 home runs, 1,414 RBIs, and 1,245 runs scored are quite impressive, as are his single-season totals of 66 home runs and 158 RBIs, 63 homers and 141 RBIs, 50 homers and 138 RBIs, and 64 homers and 160 RBIs.
Catcher - Gabby Hartnett
Generally considered to be the National League’s finest receiver of the first half of the 20th century, Hartnett was clearly the best player ever to crouch behind home plate for the Cubs. His 231 home runs, 1,153 runs batted in, .297 batting average, and .490 slugging percentage are all records for Cubs’ catchers, as are his single-season totals of 37 homers and 122 RBIs from 1930. Hartnett captured league MVP honors in 1935 when he helped lead Chicago to the pennant by batting .344 and driving in 91 runs, in only 116 games. He also hit perhaps the most memorable home run in team history three years later, when he struck his famous Homer in the Gloamin’.
Starting Pitcher – Mordecai Brown
One of the Dead-ball Era’s finest pitchers, Brown compiled a record of 188-86 in his 10 years with the Cubs, along with an extraordinary 1.80 ERA. He totaled 127 victories during Chicago’s five-year run as the National League’s dominant team from 1906 to 1910, while also posting a 20th century record-low 1.04 ERA in 1906.
Starting Pitcher – Ferguson Jenkins
Jenkins won at least 20 games six straight times for the Cubs from 1967 to 1972, totaling 127 victories over that span of time. He captured the N.L. Cy Young Award in 1971, when he topped the senior circuit with a record of 24-13, 30 complete games, and 325 innings pitched, while compiling 263 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.77. Jenkins appeared in three All-Star games as a member of the Cubs.
Starting Pitcher – Charlie Root
Chicago’s all-time leader with 201 victories, Root posted a career record of 201-156 in his 16 years with the Cubs. Root had his best year in 1927, when he led the National League with a record of 26-15 and 309 innings pitched. Although he never again won 20 games, Root surpassed 15 victories for the Cubs seven other times.
Starting Pitcher – Lon Warneke
Helping the Cubs capture the National League pennant in both 1932 and 1935, Lon Warneke surpassed 20 victories in each of those seasons, en route to compiling an overall record of 109-72 for Chicago. The right-hander won at least 20 games in three of his five years as a regular member of the team’s starting rotation, compiling victory totals of 18 and 16 in the other two campaigns. He had his best year in 1930, when he led all N.L. hurlers with a record of 22-6, a 2.37 ERA, and four shutouts.
Starting Pitcher – Ed Reulbach
Ably assisting Mordecai Brown during Chicago’s exceptional five-year run was right-hander Ed Reulbach, who compiled a record of 136-65 and an ERA of 2.24 over parts of nine seasons with the Cubs. Reulbach posted a combined record of 79-25 for the team from 1906 to 1909, leading the National League in winning percentage in three of those four years, while never posting an ERA any higher than 2.03. He won a career-high 24 games for the Cubs in 1908, surpassing 16 victories five other times during his time in Chicago.
Closer – Bruce Sutter
One of the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history, Bruce Sutter established himself as the National League’s premier closer while pitching for the Cubs from 1976 to 1980. Sutter saved a total of 133 games for Chicago over the course of those five seasons, leading the senior circuit in saves twice. He also compiled an ERA of 2.39, while allowing only 371 hits and striking out 494 batters in 493 innings of work. Sutter captured N.L. Cy Young honors in 1979, when he led the league with 37 saves, while posting a 2.22 ERA.
Manager – Frank Chance
Serving as Chicago’s player-manager from 1905 to 1912, Frank Chance led the Cubs to an overall record of 768-389, for an outstanding .664 winning percentage. He piloted the team to four pennants and two World Series titles during his successful eight-year run, before leaving the Cubs at the conclusion of the 1912 campaign to take over as New York Yankee player-manager for the next two years.
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